tagMatureAll Grown Up

All Grown Up

byakaericajones©

Chapter 1

Kimber scanned the airport Starbucks, searching for an empty table. In her right hand she clutched a strawberry frappuccino, while her left hand pulled her rolling carry-on behind her.

"No such luck," she muttered to herself and scanned the area once more, this time for someone, preferably female, sitting alone. At a table bordering the concourse she spied a middle-aged woman alone, deeply engrossed in her book.

"Looks like a good choice," Kimber thought as she headed off in that direction, carefully weaving between the closely bunched tables. She had almost reached her destination when she glanced at a gentleman as he turned the page of his paper. Kimber stopped short, stunned by the face she knew so well.

Chapter 2

"Hello, Mr. Andrews - do you remember me?"

The voice startled Ken, not because he didn't expect anyone to speak to him, but because he instantly recognized it. As he quickly lowered his newspaper, he was expecting to see a little wisp of a girl with long sable hair and translucent blue eyes. The face that greeted him still had the clear, innocent eyes but her dark mane was now chopped stylishly just above her shoulders. Though still petite, her former wispy frame now had curves and the young woman before him was no longer a little girl.

"Of course I remember, Kimber Nelson, of McKinley High fame. I'm assuming it still is Nelson?"

"Still Nelson," she quickly responded, briefly waving a ringless left hand. "I always was picky."

"And you always knew what you wanted and where you were going. So where did you end up?"

"That is still to be determined. I've had a few sidetracks but I'm still moving forward."

Ken nodded. He remembered her as the little girl, full of fire and passion for knowledge. A year behind Dane, his son, in school, she was fiercely competitive, whether competing on the Academic Decathlon team or the tennis team - both activities that she had shared with Dane. Ken suspected that his son was the only reason she had joined the tennis team.

"Can I join you?" she asked, almost tentatively.

"Of course!" he answered, folding his paper and setting it aside. "What brings you to Phoenix - or is this your home now?"

"Nope, still in Sacramento - in fact, I have a place near the river, not far from downtown. I'm just here for a conference, and heading home now. What about you?"

"I have a few clients here that I see once a month, but still Sacramento is still home for me as well," he explained. "So what have you been doing for the last..." Ken paused to do the computation, "...ten years?"

"The usual, college, grad school, working, starting my own firm," she stated casually.

"Well, that's not 'the usual' for most people - only the most motivated ones - and you were always a motivated one."

"That's a nice way of putting it - my mom calls it 'obsessed'," Kimber responded, laughing.

"So, how about you? What have you been doing the last decade?"

"Just getting older," Ken chuckled. "It's what I do best these days."

"Well, you haven't changed a bit!"

"That's because I was old ten years ago," Ken chuckled. "You, on the other hand, have changed - all for the better."

Kimber smiled at the compliment.

Their conversation was interrupted by the announcement that Flight 1080 to Sacramento was now boarding.

"That's my flight," Ken announced, pulling his boarding pass from his coat pocket and flashing it toward Kimber in explanation.

Kimber saw the 'A' on his boarding pass, and showing him her ticket with its 'C' noted, "It's my flight too - save me a seat."

"Sure," Ken shrugged, grabbing his briefcase and leaving his newspaper folded on the table as he made his way to the front of the line.

It was not unusual for Ken to run into old acquaintances, in fact, his kids thought it strange if he didn't find someone he knew wherever he went, from Disneyland to the Capital Mall.

Standing in line, waiting for the plane to start boarding, he glanced back at Kimber. "Maybe if Dane had known she would turn out like that, he might have shown more interest," Ken thought.

Chapter 3

Ken and Dane had always been close, fishing buddies when Dane was little and tennis buddies as he approached his teenaged years. So when Dane had approached his dad first about volunteering to help the tennis coach and then, later, acting as a tutor/coach to the Academic Decathlon team, Ken had readily agreed. Kimber had been hard not to notice on either team.

Ken had been asked to prepare the students particularly for the economics test and Kimber had been his most inquisitive student, often coming up with questions well beyond the scope of the Academic Decathlon competition - and sometimes asking questions for which Ken had to look up the answers.

Kimber's attraction to Dane had been fairly obvious from the first day in 'AcaDec'. It seemed to Ken that she was always around his son - in fact, it seemed to Ken that Kimber was always close to Dane whether in 'AcaDec' or on the tennis court.

Not that she was a pest, she was entirely too sweet for that, just rather obviously infatuated. Ken had even mentioned her crush to Dane, who dismissed his dad's powers of observation as extremely flawed. "Dad you don't know what you are talking about," was Dane's response every time Ken mentioned Kimber's crush. But it was obvious to Ken, especially when the bookish and decidedly unathletic Kimber had showed up for tennis with a racquet she had never actually swung before.

Ken remembered that day - he was conducting the fall 'off-season' tennis program when she had approached him very tentatively.

"What if someone doesn't 'actually' know how to play?" she almost whispered.

"Then I will 'actually' teach her."

"Really?" The word came out almost as a squeak.

"Yes, really!" he assured her.

But an hour later he was rethinking his promise. It seems like everything related to the mechanics of tennis were completely foreign to Kimber. With every swing it seemed she was more likely to hit herself than the ball. When open courts were completed for the day, Ken was wondering if her parents could get their money back for the racquet because he never expected Kimber to ever set foot on a tennis court again. She finished out the day a totally frustrated young lady.

To his great surprise she was waiting for him the following day, and every day until the season started, and by the sheer force of her determination she eventually became good enough to secure a spot near the bottom of the junior varsity team.

By the following year, she was a mainstay on the varsity team - where she was a consistent winner over more experienced and talented players - simply due to her stubborn tenacity and the sheer fact that she refused to lose.

Chapter 4

Kimber waited for the plane to start boarding, her impatience showing in her shifting stance. She was still amazed to have run into Ken Anderson this far from home, and even more amazed that he had recognized her and remembered her name.

Kimber was not one of those people for whom high school had been the highlight of her life. The truth was that she had just 'survived' high school. There were very few high school moments that she could recall with fondness, and almost none that she would consider living through again.

The little girl with the thick mane of dark hair had not been particularly popular. In fact, Kimber had never actually had a date in high school unless you counted the times she attended school events with one of her fellow nerd guy friends as a "date". It didn't help that she looked like one of those starving kids you can feed for five dollars a month that show up on commercials in the wee hours of the morning. Kimber never considered her lack of social life to be a tragedy though, because in high school she had only been interested in one guy.

Chapter 5

Boarding went quickly, attesting to the fact that Tuesday afternoon flights had few 'amateur' passengers - just seasoned 'pros' that traveled regularly.

Entering the plane, Kimber spotted Mr. Anderson just a few rows back, sitting in the middle seat on the left side of the plane. He stood as she approached and pulled his computer bag out of the overhead compartment, leaving room for her carry-on.

"Which seat do you prefer?" Ken asked.

"The window seat if that is okay."

"Please," he said, stepping out into the aisle to allow her access to her seat and slid in behind her.

"I see that you prefer to sit in the front as well," Kimber noted as they settled into their seats.

"When I was a kid I loved flying, now I just tolerate it, so I look for quick getaways," he chuckled. "Unless I have checked baggage, and then I'd rather wait on the plane where I can at least see what the holdup is, then wait at baggage and have no clue what is holding things up."

"I feel exactly the same way," Kimber stated. "How often do you fly?"

"It feels like every day, but the reality is about six trips a month, and with the recession it is increasing - I have to expand my area to just keep the revenues from dropping."

"Does Dane work for you?"

Ken smiled. He had been wondering how long Kimber could go without asking about his son. "Not since college - he only works for me when he is desperate."

"I always thought he would work for you - and eventually take over the business," Kimber explained.

"That was his plan in high school, but college opened up his options and his dreams changed - as they should. The truth is that while I would have liked to have him in the business, I always knew that Dane would choose a different path. When you own your own business - no matter what it is - your primary job is selling, and Dane never liked selling."

"So what is Dane doing?"

"He is in market research."

"Does he like it?"

"Most days."

"Isn't that how everyone feels about their job?" Kimber laughed.

"Pretty much," Ken agreed.

"Is he still in Sacramento?"

"Roseville, actually."

"That's not far, do you see him often?"

"We still play doubles together. Do you still play?"

"Yes! I had an excellent teacher that gave me a great love for the game! Maybe we could play together sometime - I love doubles!"

Ken was pretty sure with whom she was looking to 'partner'.

"Ken?" A male voice interrupted their conversation.

Ken looked up to see one of his clients standing in the aisle.

"I thought that was you, I don't know how I missed you when we boarded, but this is my lucky day. We are having problems in my San Antonio plant. I was there today, but couldn't work it out. I was going to call you as soon as I got back to town. This saves me a phone call." The man in the crumpled suit plopped down in the empty aisle seat and opened his laptop. "Here, I'll show you the numbers."

Ken was annoyed at his client's rudeness, glanced at Kimber to see if she was upset, and was met with the understanding look of a fellow entrepreneur, and with a shrug that said 'what can you do?', she reached for her laptop.

Ken focused on the numbers on the screen. "At least this will be a profitable flight," he rationalized to himself.

Chapter 6

The flight attendants were making their final sweep of the plane when the client finally closed his computer and returned to his seat, but only after Ken promised to leave the following day for San Antonio to personally supervise the implementation of the solutions he had outlined during the flight.

"I guess you have one more flight this week," Kimber commented. "How long will you be in San Antonio?"

"I'll be home Friday night."

"Big weekend plans?" Kimber queried.

"I wish!" Ken laughed. "The San Antonio plant doesn't operate on the weekend, no reason to stay longer."

The plane came to rest at the terminal and the cabin came to life with passengers retrieving their bags from the overhead and flowing toward the open doors.

Once on the concourse, Ken turned to say goodbye.

"I was really looking forward to catching up with you - but business is business," Kimber stated. "Maybe we could do dinner sometime - I'll buy," she offered tentatively.

Ken almost blurted out that Dane was married with a kid, figuring that his son was what she was interested in catching up on, but decided that would be too direct.

"Sure," he said instead.

"So do you have a card? I'll call you when you get back in town," Kimber said.

Ken fished a card out of his suit pocket.

"Thanks," Kimber said cheerily as she slipped it into a pocket on her bag. "Talk to you soon."

"Looking forward to it," Ken replied, although still not sure he actually was.

She disappeared in the crowd as Ken struggled to remember where he had parked this time.

Chapter 7

Friday afternoon found Ken sitting in the conference room of the San Antonio plant, his coat tossed carelessly over the back of a chair, his sleeves rolled up to the elbow, the top button unbuttoned, his tie loosened and the flurry of activity that had been centered here was now over. In the quiet that remained he sat alone, one neat folder in front of him, ready to be tucked away in his briefcase. A few scattered papers remained, left haphazardly around the table. Tonight the cleaning crew would remove the last physical evidence of two long days of frantic problem-solving.

Most of the men that had shared this table with him had gone home exhausted. Ken was energized - just like he always was when he had solved a problem or averted a disaster, or both.

"All charged up and no place to go," Ken stated to the empty room. Glancing at his watch, he started to pack up, as he still had hours before his flight and nothing to do. He had already checked out of the hotel room that he had barely used, the stack of pizza boxes on the file cabinet testified to the fact that he wasn't hungry.

"Maybe I can catch an earlier flight." He picked up his phone and clicked on the appropriate application. He had soon booked an earlier flight and was sliding his phone into his pocket when he got a text.

"Hi, hope you solved the problem in San Antonio. How does dinner tonight sound? It's on me! - Kimber"

Dinner with anybody sounded better than eating alone - the question Ken was asking himself was what Kimber's motives were.

If she was looking to use him to reconnect with Dane, she was going to be very disappointed when she discovers that his son was now unavailable.

If she was looking to sell him financial services of some sort, she would most likely be disappointed as well - while Ken would listen, in this economy he wasn't looking to add any overhead costs.

"Kimber was a good kid," he thought, "I should at least do dinner."

"Sounds good! Where?" he typed back to her.

"Russo's - it's a Ma and Pa Italian place, across from Fremont Park on 16th Street. Good food, I promise. When can you make it?"

"I'm still in San Antonio. My flight lands at 7:05. I don't have baggage - is 8:00 too late?"

"Not at all. I'll get us a table. See you there."

Chapter 8

It was still ten minutes until eight when Ken wheeled his car into Russo's parking lot. The patio was crowded with people of all ages, laughing and talking between tables. The crowd was obviously comprised of locals from the neighborhood giving a feel of 'family' to the atmosphere.

A silver-haired gentleman with bushy eyebrows and a ready smile greeted him from a stool by the front door. "Welcome to Russo's! I am Angelo, my wife Luisa and I hope you enjoy your visit here. This is your first time here, no?"

Before Ken could form his reply, Kimber spoke, "He is with me Angelo." She surprised Ken with a warm hug and a faint kiss on the cheek. "Glad you could find it," she said lightly holding both of his hands.

"The GPS helps," Ken explained as she led him to a small booth nestled in the back.

Ken noticed that Kimber had shed the corporate attire for a softer, more feminine look. Her light flowered skirt flowed around two very shapely legs that testified to the fact that she still worked out regularly.

They were barely seated when a sweet older lady, with hair more 'salt' than 'pepper' appeared at their side.

"Luisa, this is my friend Ken," Kimber explained.

"Good to have you with us." Luisa's tone was genuine and her dark eyes sparkled. "Kimber is one of our favorite guests! Would you like an appetizer while you look at the menu?"

Kimber looked at Ken and he shrugged.

"This is your place, I'm sure I will like anything you choose," he said in answer to her unasked question.

"Then we will have the antipasto salad, the small size, and two glasses of the House Red," Kimber declared confidently.

As Luisa moved away, Ken got the chance to concentrate on Kimber. Her sable hair was not straightened tonight, but had the soft waves that he remembered from a decade earlier. Her eyes, still as arresting as before, had lost some of their naivety, but still retained most of their innocence. The soft blouse brushed against her curves, its neckline revealed just enough cleavage to make Ken realize that he was going to have to will himself not to look.

"I wasn't sure you would accept my invitation," Kimber started, "actually I am shocked that you remember me."

"I remember you very fondly - you were a very impressive young lady," Ken said sincerely.

"Well at least I made an impression on someone," Kimber laughed. "I wonder how many of the people I knew in high school could even pick me out in a police lineup."

"Probably none. No one that knew you then would ever expect to see you in a police lineup," Ken reasoned. "Now if it was a picture in Forbes, or The Wall Street Journal, that would be different - people would expect to see you there."

Kimber blushed just a little at the compliment.

"So what are the big changes in your life?" Kimber asked.

"The big changes..." Ken considered the question for a moment, "well, in the last decade I have bought out my partner, got a divorce, and became a grandfather. That is in the order they occurred, in order of importance, they would be reversed."

"How many grandkids?"

"Three. My daughter Kari has two sweet little girls, and Dane has a wild little boy. He gives him a run for his money."

Ken watched her eyes carefully to see how she would take the news. He detected nothing. Maybe she had gotten over her crush, Ken reasoned.

"Do you like being a grandpa?"

"Yes, I think that being a grandparent is the reward you get for not killing your kids - even when they deserved it."

Kimber laughed.

"You always seemed to enjoy your business, is it better or worse since you bought out your partner?"

"Both, I don't miss having to have to talk him into everything, but I do miss having someone to share the load and somebody off whom I can bounce ideas."

"So why did you buy him out?"

"Not my decision, he wanted out, he didn't want to deal with the clients' problems anymore."

"It's problem solving that makes owning my own business fun," Kimber noted.

Luisa reappeared with their appetizer, setting a large bowl in the middle of the table and small plates in front of each of them.

"Have you decided what to order?" she asked.

Ken and Kimber looked at their unopened menus.

"Kimber, why don't you just order your two favorite dishes and we will share," Ken suggested.

Kimber nodded, quickly rattled off two menu items, and Luisa hurried away.

"Tell me about your business," Ken asked.

"Oh, I'm into financial services, pension plans, 401Ks, some investments, sometimes the whole employee benefit package."

Ken waited for the sales pitch and none came. Kimber just quickly answered his question and let the topic drop.

The conversation turned to the kids in 'AcaDec' and on the tennis team. They reminisced about funny and touching memories from the past and touched on some current events. The food arrived and Ken found it to be excellent. Luisa brought a carafe of the excellent House Red, and they emptied it, sharing the great food, memories and laughs.

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